Remember earlier in the year when Michael Ruhlman (yes, the real Michael Ruhlman!) asked if I would copyedit a small project for him? And then it was a total secret and I couldn't tell even my blog readers about it? Well, the schmaltz is finally out of the bag.
Yes, that's right, the schmaltz. Never one to shy away from controversial topics—in fact, dare I say, always one drawn to controversial topics—Michael had heard of schmaltz before, but it wasn't until his neighbor Lois was talking about all the cooking she had to do for Rosh Hashanah and all the schmaltz she had to make that Michael's ears really perked up.
Wait, schmaltz? What the heck is schmaltz? Well, if you're like me (by which I mean a Jewish American who grew up a few decades ago), schmaltz was something your mom kept in a little glass jar in the fridge so that she could make chopped liver and other goodies. It's rendered chicken fat cooked with onions, and it's the base of many traditional Jewish foods, from the aforementioned chopped liver to kishke, knishes, kreplach, and more.
I have to admit, I had thought that schmaltz was just the rendered chicken fat itself (go here to see where I say as much); I somehow didn't know about the onions! When I started working on this project, I said to Mom, "Did you ever make schmaltz without onions?" She looked at me as if I were crazy and said, "Of course not. That's not schmaltz."
So now, thanks to Michael, we have Schmaltz: A Love Song to a Forgotten Fat, an iPad app (and soon to be available on all platforms). It consists of an introduction to the whole idea of schmaltz, historically and culinarily, from the most frugal and practical aspects about using every part of everything one purchases, to the most decadent—oh, the flavor! Included are two dozen recipes, including both the traditional (see above) and some contemporary applications (chicken confit, pâté de foie gras en terrine, and more).
Accompanying every recipe are the most spectacular photos from Michael's wife, Donna Turner Ruhlman. I nearly ruined my keyboard drooling over these pix. Her process shots are just amazing—you can practically smell the onions sautéing. Here's a little preview:
For me, this project was a thrill—working with Michael and Donna, of course, but also getting in on the iPad app thing, which was all new to me. I mean, I have an iPad, but I'd never helped create a cookbook for one! It's pure genius, and I can definitely see myself plunking my iPad into a gallon-size zip-lock bag when cooking from now on. Tap, tap, swipe—dinner's ready!
Many thanks to Michael for the opportunity to work on this exciting project! You can still see my work behind the scenes on his popular blog, in this Kindle single he did recently on how his career kind of happened to him, and on some future cookbooks to come. Stay tuned—and get cooking with schmaltz already!